A couple weeks ago, I spent four awesome days in Montreal for my birthday. It was my first time visiting the Quebec city, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Unlike Toronto, which seemed to me like any big city in the U.S. (albeit cleaner and friendlier by far), Montreal felt like a different country. The history of the city was apparent as we walked down the streets, admiring the old buildings and listening to the sounds of Quebecois French in our ears.
The food was magnificent. We did not have one bad meal. Montreal is definitely worth the trip for any foodie.
William J. Walter
We started off our trip after the train ride from Toronto to Montreal at William J. Walter, a sausage shop recommended by our local hosts. The sausage itself was good, but I should have opted for some sort of sauce on mine. (They offered me mayonnaise. I know that’s a Canadian thing, but that was still a little weird). The sausage was a sweet-yet-savory apple, with pickles, peppers, and sauerkraut. It was a perfect treat after the train ride. Plus, we got a nice tour of the neighborhood.
Those of you who know me know I’m a bit of a beer snob (OK, “a bit” is an understatement). Montreal did not disappoint with its wonderful beer selection. Also on recommendation from our awesome hosts, we stopped to sample some beers at L’Espace Public, a small brewery right near the sausage shop.
We sampled five different kinds of beer: a rye, American brown, English bitter, kolsch-style, and a sour. All of them were exemplary. The extremely friendly bartender even took us downstairs for a tour of the fermenting room. It was small, but mighty.
Dieu du Ciel!
After a little bit more sightseeing, my boyfriend, Rajan, and I headed out to Dieu du Ciel!, one of the Montreal meccas for beer geeks. The place was absolutely packed, and we had to hover for a table (yep, even though it was Monday), but as soon as I started sampling beers, I knew it was worth it.
We were only mildly hungry after our mid-afternoon sausages and opted to split a charcuterie board filled with Montreal cheeses and a Margarita pizza. Both were delicious, but I was particularly fond of the bleu cheese.
We sampled ten different beers at Dieu du Ciel: an American IPA, Witbier, American Imperial Stout, Belgian Dubbel, Berliner weisse, Belgian IPA, saison, American pale ale, porter, and Belgian blonde. They were all super tasty, my favorites being the Solistice d’Ete (berliner weisse with cherries) and the Peche Mortel (a deliciously rich American Imperial porter). Dieu de Ciel (and the other Montreal beers we sampled) did leave me with the impression that the Quebecois just can’t do an IPA like we can.
Dieu du Ciel is a must-visit for any beer geek in Montreal, and the food is good also. You might have to wait a bit, but it’s worth it.
Les Affames Cafe
Our second day in Montreal was my birthday, and it was a grey, wet morning. I had the grand idea to eat poutine for breakfast, but our hosts talked us out of it, and instead recommended we brunch at Les Affames Cafe, a restaurant that is off the beaten path and probably doesn’t get a lot of tourists. I was extremely happy with my meal, and would steer anyone visiting Montreal to catch a bus to Les Affames.
I wanted to try something a little different and chose the blood sausage with pouched eggs and an orange blended drink that reminded me of an Orange Julius. The blood sausage came out square-shaped, crisped up on the outside, but warm and sausage-textured on the inside. Yes, blood sausage does have blood in it. No, it did not taste like when you cut your finger and you stick it in your mouth to stop the bleeding. The taste is very rich. The pouched eggs were perfect, with the yolk bursting out into the salad. It was an awesome first birthday meal.
Rajan went with our waiter’s suggestion and ordered the MonteCristo, a hammy delight. For dessert, the restaurant brought out a complimentary mango tart that was one of the best desserts I have ever tasted.
It was creamy with balanced flavors of sweet and tart. In short, it was heavenly.
We couldn’t possibly stop in Montreal without trying the dish that was perfected there: poutine. After a day of sightseeing, our stomachs were rumbling for something substantial.
In my research for the perfect poutine, over and over again, La Banquise kept popping up. The small restaurant, which is open 24 hours and apparently has the most traffic overnight, when drunken revelers are looking for something to soak up the alcohol. A sign at the door warns patrons to pay before eating when visiting after midnight to keep table availability flowing. We, however, visited late afternoon and found a table with no issue.
La Banquise has more than 30 types of poutine. Of course, we had to go for the original: fries, gravy, and cheese curds. We also ordered La Miam, poutine with ground beef, merguez, onions, tomato, and Swiss cheese. Rajan was not as set as I was on making sure that we had poutine before we left Montreal, but as soon as he put a bite of potato-cheesy-gravy goodness in his mouth, he proclaimed, “Damn, that’s good.”
I really enjoyed the original, and although La Miam was also good, I would have been OK with just splitting a large original (yes, those are smalls in the photo). It just didn’t have the punch that the original had.
Make no mistake: poutine is not to be missed.
The next day, we explored Old Montreal and once again asked our hosts for suggestions. They directed us to Jardin Nelson. The rain was pouring down even harder than the day before, but we walked from the train station to the restaurant, and seated ourselves outside after the rain died down.
The restaurant had light jazz music playing, and English was spoken all around us. It was certainly a place for tourists, but the food was still tasty.
We each ordered a different crepe. I got the Florentine, a ham and brie concoction, and he ordered a chicken and broccoli crepe. I noticed a number of flyers advertising live jazz at night; I would have liked to have seen that.
Jean Talon Market
The biggest market of its kind, Jean-Talon Market, is in Montreal, and, boy, was it a sight to see. If I lived near that place, you can bet I would happily hop into my car or on the subway to pick up fresh produce, cheese, meats, and anything else my little culinary heart desired. It was very large and had so much to offer, even on a weekday.
We were still pretty full of cheese and carbs, but we browsed around the market, taking in everything there was. Anything and more you would want from the average grocery store was on sale at the market, to a much more colorful effect. We ended up eating an empanada, egg roll, and a chocolate and cheese cake.
Fenetre sur Kaboul
While walking to La Banquise the day before, Rajan spotted a Afghan restaurant and immediately googled it, intrigued by the menu. The restaurant was Fenetre sur Kaboul, and it’s where we ate our final dinner in Montreal.
Having never experienced Afghan food before, we left it up to the waiter to pick what he thought we would like the best. We were not disappointed.
First was an organic bread with sauce. The waiter warned us when he put it down that it was “quite spicy,” but Rajan and I immediately dug in. One thing that we both took away from the trip is that we were sorely lacking in spice. We immediately when straight for the hot stuff.
Next was ashak, what the waiter described as “Afghan ravioli.” It was a mixture of meat and spices, both stuffed inside and on top of a noodle pocket. It was delicious.
For the entrees, the waiter brought out Qubuli Palow seasoned lamb, a rice and lamb dish, and the Kaboul kebob, a mixture of three different meats (lamb, beef, and chicken) all seasoned differently.
Rajan told the waiter about my blog and hinted at wanting the recipe for the kabobs. He responded, “I live with my sister, who is the chef, and she won’t even give ME the recipe. Maybe she will give it to you.” Oh, well! I’ll just have to rely on a dear reader or the Internet!
We ended our final night in Montreal with a beer tasting at Le Saint-Bock. Yet another brewery in Montreal with beers you can’t buy anywhere else, we sampled an array of brews, including a red ale, cream ale, brett porter, an imperial stout, a regular porter, a gose, a gose with tequila, and the best milk stout I have tasted in my entire life, the Double Malediction. Not a bad way to end a night!
Montreal was a truly wonderful city to visit. Don’t discredit it as a strange place to go, and definitely spend more than a couple days enjoying the city. We could have easily filled an entire week with things to do (and eat!).